Op-Ed

Governor, what about our public schools?

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I know Gov. Matt Bevin must have a big heart because of his efforts to provide work experience and apprenticeships to former convicts, to allow them to get their lives on the right foot with a solid job potential when released from prison.

He realizes that a former felon has a hard time finding employment and must often return to crime for survival, with the inevitable revolving door from incarceration to freedom to incarceration. Citizens of Kentucky should applaud him for such a forward-looking policy.

This is why I am so puzzled. While his heart is in the right place regarding former felons, I can’t understand why it seems to be AWOL when it comes to our kids. He must value kids because they are our only future. The fact that Bevin has nine children proves that he must be totally invested in young people. And I would guess that he wants the best for them.

But his actions would make people wonder.

For instance, why would he not want the best and brightest teachers in our schools? When he berates and scolds them, he could be driving them away from teaching. When the past legislatures are to blame for the financial problems with the pension system, why does he want to penalize the teachers when they had nothing to do with the shortfall?

Since 2008, our public schools have been savaged. A third of our districts have reduced or eliminated art and music. How sad. Art and music can add so much to one’s life. Even though Bevin promotes technical training, a third of the districts have been forced to reduce or eliminate technical and career training.

After-school programs, so important in keeping kids out of trouble, have been required to be shut down and a third of districts have been forced to cut health programs. And in five of the past eight years, teachers have received no state-funded raises at all.

In spite of all that, public schools have endured over the past 10 years. Why cut them further?

And then there are charter schools that Bevin so vigorously promotes. Surely he knows that charter schools rob public schools of funding.

For example, Fayette public schools receive $12,400 per student. If a charter school is approved in the county with 150 students, then $1.8 million of the public-school funding would need to be diverted to the charter school each year. This money would cost the equivalent of 31 teachers who might need to be laid off.

But that’s not all. Charter school legislation requires public schools to transport charter students to and from school. School boards would also be required to add additional staff to monitor and evaluate charters. How could taking money away from our public schools be good for our kids?

And he should know that charter schools have poor performance records nationally. In Ohio, for example, 64 percent of charter schools were graded D or F while only 13 percent of public schools were so graded.

And then there is the Kentucky commissioner of education, who is supposed to lead our public schools to be the best that they can be, to promote excellence and best practices.

The governor’s newly-appointed education board forced the resignation of a proven educator doing an excellent job to replace him with someone who has an outspoken desire to promote charter schools at the expense of public schools. Is it best for our kids that the fox is in charge of the chickens?

So, Governor: What’s in your heart?

Marty Solomon is a retired University of Kentucky Professor and can be reached at mbsolomon@aol.com

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